Pellegrini's attitude towards food was shaped by his childhood as a peasant in Italy. His family was so poor that he followed animals being driven to market so that he could collect their manure and sell it for fertilizer. He gives a description of his father meticulously cleaning out chicken intestines so that they could be cooked and eaten. A typical Italian Christmas stocking contained no toys because children had no time to play, only nuts and an orange (p.19).
In his trip across America to join his father in Washington State, Pellegrini gathered apples from neglected orchards, stunned that so much fruit was allowed to go to waste with no one to threaten him for theft. He lost a girl friend after he served her and her mid-Western parents freshly shot larks for dinner; in Italy, songbirds were viewed as another source of food to a starving population. In a paragraph that is shocking to twenty-first century Americans, Pellegrini admits that friends give him unwanted Easter rabbits bought for their children, and he serves them up for dinner for other friends (who are told that they are chicken) (p. 99).
The grown-up Pellegrini still scavenged for firewood during his trips to the hills around Seattle. Looking back on his childhood in Washington state, he remembered:
"During the first few months in America I went to the forest every day and returned home laden with its precious fruit. There were nuts and berries in profusion. With my father I hunted grouse, pheasant, quail, and rabbit. Here and there were abandoned homesteads with pear, plum, and apple orchards...Although we worked hard in our eagerness to take advantage of new opportunities, we did not neglect what was to be had for no more effort than was required in gathering it. We never bought a bit of fuel."(p.31-2
In addition to what his family found in the land around them, they also planted an extensive garden. This habit was continued by the adult Pellegrini in his Seattle yard.